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Virtual Reality – A Reality No Longer Virtual

Whenever a “Trekkie” thinks of virtual reality (or “VR”), the first thing that pops into their heads is a “Holodeck” or a “Holosuite” – both fictional areas where, according to the Star Trek World, are holocom rooms featuring recreations of places and environs, as well as usable items, originally designed for research, including tactical and training simulations, but could also be utilized as holographic entertainment facilities, providing endless enjoyment of a seemingly endless variety. “Photons and forcefields,” it was said, is the magic behind that technology. Far from the 23rd century, where these wonderful things exist, is the 21st century, where we are currently, without such luxuries.

Oculus Rift Development Kit 1
Oculus Rift Development Kit 1

However, because the science fiction genre often dictates what “becomes” in real life, virtual reality is quickly shaping into those visions.

For example, the 2016 NAB Show is highlighting VR as its main centerpiece. While far from the aforementioned “holo-technology” of Star Trek lore, virtual reality is already being used in both industrial and commercial settings. ESI Group, a recognized leader in the fields of virtual product engineering and virtual prototyping (according to their website), has been serving clients for more than 40 years from their facility in Paris, France.

Using virtual reality helps automotive companies build better products – the engineers can actually get inside of the car in the virtual world and improve their insight into how their designs will be used by their customers, giving them the ability to design and manufacture more appropriate models.

Oculus Rift Development Kit 2
Oculus Rift Development Kit 2

Extending far beyond style and design, engineers can delve deep into the world of safety – using virtual reality to model how cars will behave in different road conditions and also how the safety features will perform in the event of a crash. With all of this data, achieved through computer modeling rather than full-size mock-up simulations, the engineers can predict how all the components of the car will work together to keep the occupants safe.

It’s in these settings that the VR seems closer to the VR we see in science fiction – but what about the average Joe?

Typically, once technology becomes comfortable in the hands of business, it tends to seep into the consumer market. The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which, incidentally, takes place at the

Samsung Gear VR
Samsung Gear VR

same Las Vegas Convention Hall where NAB throws its big yearly bash, was all aglow with the Oculus Rift VR Headset. Oculus VR, a recently-purchased Facebook-owned company, has a March 28, 2016 date for shipping the first of its $599 products to those who joined the Kickstarter campaign to fund the project initially.

According to an interview with Nate Mitchell, Vice President of Product at Oculus VR on GamesBeat, a section of VentureBeat – an online technology news source – the minimum gaming computer set-up needs (at least) an Nvidia GTX 970 Graphics Board with eight (8) gigs of RAM and the i5 processor to experience the difference. Nvidia believes that VR gaming requires “seven times the graphics processing power as a traditional PC game.”

From the Samsung Gear VR headset, to Google Cardboard, to the HTC Vive headset from Wevr, virtual

HTC Vive
HTC Vive

reality will invade our space and become the next biggest “must-have” thing. There is very little content available at the moment – but don’t worry: according to Alyssa Newcomb of ABC News, Memora’s “Luna 360, a consumer-friendly camera set to be released later this year, provides an accessible way for anyone to shoot 360-degree home movies and export them for viewing on virtual reality devices.”

Luna 360 Camera
Luna 360 Camera

The Luna 360 Camera has “two spherical lenses, smart AI, auto-stitching, inbuilt gyroscope, a magnetic power adaptor and wireless connectivity,” and “is designed to be used by anyone.” The little Luna is not only scratchproof, but is also waterproof by IP67/68 Standards. How many cameras do you know that can be suspended from the end of a fishing line, lowered into the drink and survive? At approximately 2.5” in diameter, this beauty has 4K Lens Resolution and can Livestream via Wi-Fi. If it wasn’t already in existence, it would sound too good to be true!

It’s difficult to put into words a VR experience – and especially more difficult trying to describe it to

GoogleCardboard
GoogleCardboard

someone who has not yet had the pleasure of trying it. With that said, I’m not going to even try.

Everyone’s VR experience is different – and it’s a love/hate relationship… you’re either going to love it, or hate it. Personally, I LOVE IT! But there will be those who will say that it’s just not at the level yet to be enjoyable. And, with every emerging technology, the price is high; maybe not for some, but to many people, it is. However, the price hasn’t stopped the Oculus Rift from selling-out – even in its pre-order stage. This is just the baby steps to the VR technology we see in science fiction films… and each step brings us that much closer!

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